(Image via @PeterPyke)

Marise Payne and Christopher Pyne can't decide who is the ranking minister, but Australia's Defence Department has much bigger problems than that, writes Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones.

DEFENCE Minister Marise Payne has been unable to say whether she or Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne is considered the "senior" minister in the portfolio.

More Coalition indecision.

In truth, both titles are a joke. Neither has any more control over Australia’s defence than I do over my goldfish.

The Department of Defence is a bureaucratic monolith answerable only to itself. The way-out-of-her-depth Marise Payne is just the latest in a conga-line of inept ministers from both sides of the house to be kept in the dark by the cabal of Admirals and former fighter jocks who are tasked, ultimately, with keeping you safe.

And lazier bunch of ne’er-do-wells you are unlikely to meet.

They have gotten away with it until now by hiding in the U.S. alliance. The same alliance that bought us such gems as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, neither of which had anything to do with freedom.

In their 2016 Defence White Paper, our washed-out warriors reckoned:

'A strong and deep alliance is at the core of Australia’s security and defence planning. The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power and will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner. Through this Defence White Paper, Australia will seek to broaden and deepen our alliance with the United States, including by supporting its critical role in underpinning security in our region through the continued rebalance of United States military forces.'

What could possibly go wrong? 

America, for starters.

If Trump wins the U.S. will go isolationist, if Clinton wins it will go aggressive. Hillary has already directly named Putin, who has been all over YouTube threatening WWIII, as her nemesis, so that augurs well.

Clinton will be the next president because the U.S. military-industrial cabal has so decreed, but Trump supporters with an open carry licence will not take this lying down. It is possible the South – plus everyone else with a gun-rack-fitted pick-up truck, radio tuned to Breitbart News – will get ammo’ed up and Yee-Hah beyond the capacity of the National Guard to restrain them (if they wanted to).

Phoney, if not real, civil war.

Then there is Philippines President Dirty Duterte.

Dirty resents the years of U.S. imperialism and influence in the Philippines, and claims, wrongly, that U.S. president Obama’s mother was a whore. She was an anthropologist.

Duterte has just returned from a diplomatic mission to China where he and Chinese President Xi had "fruitful discussions".

There is no doubt Duterte will pivot his country to China and support that country’s claims in the South China Sea.

A few Chengdu J-20s at Manila airport would seriously compromise, maybe even cripple, U.S. power in the region.

If you have not noticed, the Chinese army goose-steps.

Then there is the pie-kid, Kim Jong-un.

The fat little fascist has been genetically modified over three generations to be an even better bogeyman than his ancestors and no-one has any idea just how far he will go.

On a broader scale. India, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel and so on.

The mind swims.

The drums of war are beating.

Where does that leave us?

Up shit creek without a paddle.

The Chinese are already one step ahead of the Japanese, in that the conservatives have pre-emptively ceded Darwin, but even so it is unlikely Australia will be invaded by a rampaging foreign army, at least not in the next few years. Such an exercise would require massive logistics and, after all, we have a squadron of Howard’s Abrams tanks to defend us. If they can get the mothballs out in time.

And if they have any fuel to put in them.

Since Caltex, Exxon, Shell and Mobil, all responsible corporate citizens, decided to close their local refining operations, Australia has no effective capacity to refine oil for petrol, diesel, lubrication or kerosene (av gas). We import it all: 80% through Singapore, 100% via sea-lanes.

Without open sea-lanes, Australian society as we know it would cease to exist in about three weeks — that’s the national fuel reserve. After that, it is seriously downhill.

As the ABC says

'Retired Air Vice Marshall John Blackburn said Australia's food, water and medicine distribution was entirely reliant on transport fuel and the supply operated on a "just in time" philosophy for the sake of logistical efficiency.'

What to do?

It is nothing short of wilful negligence that this Government has allowed every major refinery in Australia to close during its term. Forget Holden, Ford and Toyota, this is serious and a straight-up neo-con betrayal of all Australians, every one of us, from poor to rich, left to right, happy-clapper to atheist. It is unforgiveable.

Without fuel we are utterly defenceless, no matter how many Coalition Ministers we have.

Australians make up 0.3% of the world’s population and the country holds about 0.3% of the world’s oil reserves.

Spend Commonwealth funds now. Borrow it at 1%.  Employ people. Build a decent refinery that can at least cope with subsistence.

And stop wasting money bombing civilians. Spend it on Australian defence. Australia has spectacular science capabilities. Use them. Our mandarins at defence are obsessed with the last war, think subs and the J-35 so-called Strikefighter which can hardly get off the ground. How much are we spending on these heaps of shit?

Enough to pay of lot of Australian science people to develop and push technology to the point where it becomes unviable to take us on.

That’s all we need.

When next you see high-ranking ADF brass poncing around in front of a camera, just remember these people spent $100 million on travel in four months. That’s $300m p.a. before junkets and other perquisites.

The U.S. alliance is a gravy train of illusion towing a caboose of waste.

The Department has several carriages hooked to this train, and very nice they are too, well-upholstered with great catering, so letting some fly-by-night minister get anywhere near the couplings just isn’t going to happen.

Not when 2% of annual GDP is on board.

A million million over just 20 years. Yum.

Payne or Pyne? You say tomatah, I say tomato.

You can follow Ross Jones on Twitter @RPZJones.

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